I’ve have heard numerous Afghans, elite and commoner, religious and secular, and from both inside the homeland and the Diaspora ask why I publicly declared my sexuality last August 22nd via social media in a poetic message that rocked the world? A few have inaccurately and irresponsibly assumed I revealed my orientation only for publicity. The reality is, prior to coming out, I was already a well-known figure in Afghan, American, and global society as a prolific writer, professor, social engineer, thought leader and someone who has broken the sonic barrier in terms of academic and professional achievement within a very short timeframe. As a friend put it best, “Nemat you’ve done more in your 34 years than most do in a lifetime and you never shy away from moving humanity forward. Afghanistan should be dying to claim you as one of their own because if they don’t, America certainly will. Look today, Rumi, is claimed by Afghans, Iranians, Iraqis, and the Turks. One day nations will be fighting over you too. Just keep writing and never give up.”
Coming out as a native Afghan required me to have guts and valor, a bold spirit, and the grit and resiliency to withstand the homophobic and hostile backlash. I have confronted a nation of 30 million people who are mostly against me including many homosexuals who have not reconciled their own conflict and find it convenient to fight me than to accept who they are. This is why you rarely hear about people originally from Afghanistan or any conservative Muslim country ever come out of the closet. Despite the huge risks, coming out was a necessary process for me to be true to myself, my feelings and live honestly with my actual identity. I am confident that within a decade, a generation, and within my lifetime, Afghanistan will be a completely remade as a gay affirmative nation.
Their will be more gays who will choose to come out in the future. Unfortunately, most closeted gays from the older Afghan generation will probably take their secret to their graves and never have a chance to live a life where they can fulfill their dreams and heart’s desire. I have chosen not to be included in that grim statistic.
Coming out was also a strategic and wise process for me to increase the visibility of LGBTIQ Afghans and to educate Afghans who impose their narrow-minded gender and sex conformity on everyone. By coming out, I am sending a strong signal to all Afghans that the LGBTIQ community does exist and we refuse to be an “invisible minority” in society.
As an influential person, it was important for me give courage, hope and inspiration to other closeted Afghans who wish to be free. In the last several months since my historic coming out, I have received hundreds upon hundreds of messages from gays inside Afghanistan who tell me they feel trapped and live in a state of depression and desperation. Though they are extremely proud of me and regard me as their hero and role model in life. I get chills and goose bumps and well up in a flood of tears when I read these heart-breaking messages and now I have fully crystallized my calling and purpose in life.
Finally, coming out as an Afghan was vital for me to shatter all the taboos, foster dialogue about sexuality, and prompt the gradual breakdown in the thousands of years of bigotry and institutional discrimination against sexual minorities. In Afghan society, everyone assumes that everyone is heterosexual. So for all you “khala jaan” or “kaaka jaan” (aunty or uncle) out there, instead of asking unmarried men and women, “when are you getting married?” the first question you should ask is, “Are you attracted to the opposite sex or same sex” or more gently ask, “Do you date men or women?” or “Do you have a boyfriend or girlfriend.” My goal is to educate the Afghan aunties and uncles how to be civilized and proper.
For all the dissenters and naysayers who object to my coming out or deny the existence of gays, you are doing yourself a disservice by displaying your own ignorance and prejudice. If you call yourself a righteous Muslim then you will not reject your own humanity and Allah’s creation. You hate on gays and lesbians but what if your own child, sibling, parent, or even yourself (if you are questioning yourself or have internalized homophobia) who is suffering a lifetime of misery? Most cannot ever express their sexuality and live with the one they really love due to antiquated obligations and hetero normative orthodoxy that clashes against science and the right of a person to embrace their nature and accept who they were born to be.